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Chapter 5: Hearing the Other Side and Standing Firm Arceneaux and Johnson. Erinn Lauterbach Feb. 28, 2014. Main point: What role could partisan news play in hardening the attitudes of viewers against opposing arguments? Example: Birthers in 2008

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chapter 5 hearing the other side and standing firm arceneaux and johnson

Chapter 5: Hearing the Other Side and Standing FirmArceneaux and Johnson


Feb. 28, 2014

Main point: What role could partisan news play in hardening the attitudes of viewers against opposing arguments?
    • Example: Birthers in 2008
  • These shows both bolster pre-existing attitudes and help hone viewer defenses to arguments from the other side.
  • Partisan show hosts (O’Reilly & Olbermann)
    • Promote their own views
    • Tear down others with whom they disagree
  • These kinds of communications can wall off like-minded viewers from hearing the other side.
One theory of political communication is that if people are exposed to opposing arguments (both proattitudinal and counterattitudinal) they will have more moderate views and reasonable opinions.
    • Authors use a hypothetical counterfactual
  • Questions: will hearing the other side moderate views (increase openness) or will exposure to countervailing views harden partisans against those arguments?
Again the A & J are borrowing from the psychology literature
    • Exposure to proattitudinal information increases peoples political efficacy and bolsters their initial opinions
      • Primes group identity
    • If counterattitudinal information signals an out-group threat it would motivate people to defend their groups position
      • This desire for in-group cohesion can mediate even reasonable counter arguments
      • Examples? Climate change?
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty and Cacioppo)
    • Helps the authors incorporate how the audience might differ in their receptivity to pro and counterattitudinal arguments.
    • “some individuals have a strong need to intellectually process, or elaborate, arguments while others are less inclined to do so”
      • Need for cognition
  • Individuals high in need for cognition are better at and enjoy dissecting arguments as well as generating their own counter arguments.
People who have weak attitudes and high need for cognition tend to moderate their opinions when exposed to both side.
  • People with strong attitudes and high need for cognition tend to counterargue when exposed to counterattitudes.
    • Rehearse counterarguments
    • Distrust the source
    • Resist persuasion
  • Selective Exposure Experiments (SEEs) 09 & 11
    • Randomly assigned to 3 groups:
      • Proattitudinal show
      • Counterattitudinal show
      • Entertainment show (later to became channel changing group)
    • Focus on tax policy (Warren Buffet)
    • Asked to watch the news selection and rate the counterattitudinal persuasiveness on a 9 point scale
    • ELM measure was given in a pre-test
  • If a respondent claims the counterattitudinal argument was not persuasive (weak) then there is evidence that watching partisan news hardens people’s opinions making them less open to opposing viewpoints.
    • This is what they found. When compared to the control group, those in the counterattitudinal group rated the given argument as weak.
  • Low need for cognition participants:
    • In both pro and counterattitudinal groups did not evaluate arguments differently from the control group.
  • High need for cognition participants:
    • The partisan arguments caused participants to be more resistant to opposing arguments.
entertainment folks
Entertainment Folks?
  • News seekers have a desire to maintain their opinions and should be capable of resisting counterattitudinal arguments.
  • Entertainment seekers however may benefit from exposure to both pro and counterattitudinal news.
    • Have less defense against counter arguments.
  • ELM?
    • May lack the desire to connect arguments made in the news to any pre-existing opinions.
  • Fall 2011 Participant Preference Experiment (PPE)
    • Shorter version of the fall 2011 SEE
  • Before being randomly assigned to a group, participants were asked what they preferred to watch.
  • ELM was given in the post-test
  • Partisan news shows have a larger affect on entertainment seekers
    • Specifically, proattitudinal group entertainment seekers substantially increase their resistance to counter arguments.
  • ELM:
    • Both low and high need for cognition entertainment seekers are more likely to resist opposing arguments after watching proattitudinal news.
    • It does little to harden attitudes further though
    • Partisan news has the potential to have massive effects, but these are likely unrealized because the most susceptible tune out opinionated cable news programs.
Agenda Setting:
    • By reporting on some issues at the expense of others, news media influences what issues the mass public sees as most important
    • Salience
  • Primes:
    • News media can construct shared perceptions about a collective experience and thus influence peoples political judgments
    • Helps people decide what information to rely on when constructing attitudes
  • Frames:
    • How a problem is defined can affect what people think about an issue
Question: Does the rise of partisan media alter agenda setting?
  • Possible theories:
    • Partisan media may focus on different things.
    • Stroud (2001) looked at the 2004 Presidential election. He found that the agenda on each side was similar, but the way they framed the issues was different.
  • Implications: audiences of one news outlet will have a different conversation from that of the audience of other news outlets.
  • Viewer watching a counterattitudinal show may accept the agenda, but not the partisan definition given with the issue.
    • A & J find that both pro- and counterattitudinal shows can shape perceptions of issue salience.
O’Reilly devoted much of his time to talking about the budget and economy
  • Olbermann did not discuss the economy at all
    • Olbermann viewers were 14% less likely than O’Reilly to mention the economy as the most important problem.
    • Olbermann successfully shifted the focus of his viewers away from the economy.
  • Winter 2011 SEE
    • Focus on the ACA/Obamacare
    • Posttest includes and overall evaluation of the president
    • The liberal and conservative shows presented the ACA in completely different ways
  • Control Group
    • There was basically no relationship between health care and their performance evaluation of the president
  • Counterattitudinal Group
    • Participants were more likely to bring health-care specific and evaluations of Obama in line with each other
  • Partisan (especially counterattitudinal) news appear to prime the issues relevant to their evaluations of the president. However, counterattitudinal shows magnify partisanship in issue-specific presidential evaluations.
Agenda Setting:
    • Most likely to happen among entertainment seeking groups assigned to proattitudinal shows.
    • News seekers in the counterattitudinal group appear to resist agenda setting (they were 10 percentage points less likely to mention the environment as a problem)
  • Issue Framing
    • Partisan media not only wants to set the agenda but also to affect how viewers define the issue.
  • Priming
    • Because counterattitudinal shows attack people’s core predispositions and partisan identities, a defensive priming effect may be more robus than simple agenda-setting effects are.
  • Fall 2011 PPE
    • Participants were presented with six problem definitions of federal tax policy and asked to rank how important each was.
      • Definitions taken from the news shows, 3 liberal & 3 conservative
    • Participants physically drag each definition to the spot where they thought it belonged.
  • News Seekers
    • Were highly likely to choose attitude-consistent problem definitions without the aid of partisan news
    • Definitions were unaffected by pro or counterattitudinal shows.
  • Entertainment Seekers
    • Proattitudinal shows appeared to facilitate an attitude-consistent problem definition (only slighly)
    • Counterattitudinal shows lowered the probability that they chose an attitude-consistent definition as their first choice.
      • These shows may successfully alter problem defintions